The messaging app Telegram has grown in popularity since Russia invaded Ukraine. Especially for those who are closely tracking the war between the two countries. But why is this alternative to WhatsApp so popular not only in Russia and Ukraine, but more and more in the west? 5 questions about Telegram.
1. What is Telegram?
Those who have seen “Hetnews” in the last few weeks may have seen images of witnesses that arrived at us via Telegram. This messaging app started in 2013 as a Russian answer to WhatsApp in the United States.
But Telegram can do more than WhatsApp, which makes the app very interesting at the moment, explains Jan Balliauw, a VRTNWS Russian expert. “Telegram doesn’t allow you to send private messages or share with groups like WhatsApp. Unlike WhatsApp, these groups are much larger and can have up to 200,000 members. ..
In addition, you can use Telegram, such as Twitter, to publish a publicly readable message online. The latter happens on “channels” that anyone can subscribe to.
2. Why is it so popular?
The company reports that the Telegram app has been downloaded more than 150 million times since the beginning of this year. Messaging services are currently said to have more than 500 million active users. By comparison, whatsApp, a major competitor, has about 2 billion.
Telegram has robbed WhatsApp of users for years. Initially, Telegram was marketed as a safe alternative to WhatsApp.
For example, you can always send all messages encrypted via Telegram. Because of that technology, no one but you and the recipient can read your message. WhatsApp only devised such “end-to-end encryption” in 2016. Note: Messages are not Telegram encrypted by default. You need to turn on encryption yourself.
Thanks to this security, Telegram has become very well established in Russia in recent years, and many friends of Russian expert Jan Balliauw just want to communicate with him via Telegram. “They are afraid that they can be tapped through other apps, for example, they trust Telegram more than WhatsApp.”
Telegram’s additional growth sprint took place early last year. It was later discovered that WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, shares WhatsApper user data such as phone numbers and computer addresses with its parent company. Many users felt this was overkill and switched to alternatives such as Telegram.
3. How is Telegram used in war?
In recent weeks, Telegram has been further boosted by Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the country, this app is widely used to follow news about war. For example, via Telegram channels, Ukrainians can quickly see which targets are being attacked and therefore whether they should seek shelter.
Telegram is also widely used in Russia as news about war. “Since the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, many independent news sources have used these channels to share news,” said Eva Claessen, an expert on Russian information and internet policy at KU Leuven. I am saying.
“On the other hand, Russian state broadcasters RT and Sputnik use Telegram channels to spread the news to the west. That’s double.” Therefore, Telegram is now both a source and a fake.
4. Who is behind it?
Telegram was founded in 2013 by Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov. These two programmers made a lot of money with V Kontakte, the equivalent of Facebook in Russian. The two refused to give information to the government from opposition lawmakers. In fact, Pavel dared to share a request for Russian secret services on his V Kontakte page.
Eventually, the brothers were acquired by the Russian company Mail.ru. With revenue, the brothers decided to build a telegram from the ground. However, in 2014 they were forced to flee their hometown. “I’ve lost my business and home, but I’ll do it again without hesitation,” Pavel, considered Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg, recently wrote to Telegram about this.
Since the flight from Russia, the two brothers have been running Telegram from Dubai’s United Arab Emirates, and their parent company is a mailbox company with an address in the British Virgin Islands.
5. Will Russia censor telegrams?
On March 4, the Russian Parliament passed a law banning “fake news” about the invasion of Ukraine. Anyone who spreads news that goes against the Kremlin’s vision is at risk of 15 years in prison. For this reason, Russia is also expected to ban Telegram, but it has not yet been banned.
Previously, the country had already returned from a minimal journey when it tried to ban Telegram in 2018 because Durov refused to share user information. Both Telegram and users have found a detour to continue using the service.
Finally, in 2020, the Kremlin itself was forced to allow Telegram again, partly because it was a large user of messaging services.